Last week I got an email from an attorney in Hoke County. She had heard that I possessed some sort of definition of quasi-judicial proceedings written by Dr. Seuss and wondered if I could forward it.  [Side Bar: I really do know where most of our counties are, and I’ve been through or practiced in most of them, but I admit that I had to check my official North Carolina State Transportation Map (2007 version) to confirm.  End side bar.] 

             Rumors . . .  I actually don’t have such a creature, but I know how the rumor got started.

             I did a quasi-humorous Continuing Legal Education seminar (CLE) for the N.C. Bar Association Zoning and Land Use Section in 2009.  The title was “A Seussian View of Quasi-Judicial Proceedings.”  I did a reprise of the same CLE at last February’s “Festival of Legal Learning” sponsored by the UNC School of Law.  The CLE was serious, but it was sprinkled with quotes by and references to Dr. Seuss characters and books. Actually . . . it was quite fun. [Second Side Bar:  I noticed many weeks before the UNC seminar that my presentation had some how been dropped from their agenda.  Not so, I was told.  It’s just that it was one of the first sessions to become “sold out” with early registrants, even as an 8:00 a.m. seminar.  Thank you Dr. Seuss!  End side bar.]

             I kicked off each seminar with a two sentence description of quasi-judicial proceedings that extended over six power point slides.  Think about that. Six slides. Two sentences.   The run-on appositives and dependent clauses, coupled with a clearly confusing lexography, illustrated how thoroughly mind-numbing quasi-judicial concepts and procedures could be, largely because we employed similar terms that rhymed but didn’t match and definitions that morphed the moment you crossed the county line. 

             I pity the planner who has to guide his or her board and the governmental attorney who has to wade through this morass to explain the inexplicable.

             Here’s what my legal colleague was seeking, and I’m pleased to quote it here, in full.

             “Conditional and special use permits are issued for uses otherwise allowed if certain standards are proven by evidence before the board, with conditional use and special use permits being the same thing, except in those circumstances when one jurisdiction issues both special and conditional use permits depending upon the land use requested, and except, of course, in those jurisdictions where all rezonings are done by conditional use zoning, which is just another form of special use permitting except in those cases when a city or county actually engages in legislative conditional district zoning (not to be confused with quasi-judicial conditional use zoning) which is distinguishable from those cities and counties that still call their process conditional use zoning and that issue a conditional use permit yet have nonetheless officially adopted legislative procedures (as opposed to other cities and towns which never adopted those legislative procedures but do conditional use zoning in a legislative format anyway because that’s how it has always been done there, even though you are still held to quasi-judicial standards when the permit’s issuance or denial is litigated), none of which is to be confused with special exceptions, which are issued by a Board of Adjustment and which refer to variances and not special uses, or to be confused with special district rezonings which are legislative approvals of site specific plans (although site specific plans are approved quasi-judicially in some cities and counties), unlike some jurisdictions that just adopt written conditions at the zoning stage and engage in site plan approval at a later stage where the process is administrative, which is a different process than that used in jurisdictions that make subjective findings in their staff level subdivision reviews, and which is different than jurisdictions that make subjective findings in subdivision review at the board level, which is quasi-judicial as well, even though many jurisdictions ignore those cumbersome procedures.  All of the above is easy to distinguish from variances and administrative appeals which, by law, go to the Board of Adjustment where the required standards are mandated at the state, not local, level and only ignored at the local level on arbitrary and whimsical bases depending upon local custom and whether money was budgeted to provide for monthly board legal representation.”

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